Last Minute Gift Ideas Without Leaving the House

Last minute gifts

Welcome to my annual reminder: You forgot _______________. It happens. That relative or friend walks through the door that you totally forgot to get a gift for and you feel bad. Yep, it happens. Personally, I wouldn’t sweat it. However, for those of you who do (you know who you are) here are a couple of things you can do to save the day.

First off it may not be too late to give an I.O.U.! Be sure to check out my Holiday Gadget Gift Guide here. Let them know it’s on the way and just won’t arrive in time. I’d be happy with a cool gift that’s coming!

iTunes Printable Gift Certificates

iTunes

When you go to hang up their coat, head to your computer and fire up iTunes. Then go to the iTunes Store and buy a “Printable” gift certificate. You can print it (quietly) on your printer, fold it and stick it in one of those emergency cards that you keep around. Oh yeah, you forgot those too. OK, a handwritten envelope will do. You can then explain to them that with this they can download music, books, movies, apps and more. Whew!

 

Amazon Printable Gift Certificates

amazongiftcert

OK, so the person that just walked in is not into digital entertainment. I get it! No problem. Head over to Amazon.com (here’s the link to get you directly to the gift certificates. This way you won’t be out of the room any longer than you have to be) and buy a gift certificate and print it out. Now they can go order whatever they want since Amazon sells just about everything.

Lastly pride yourself on avoiding the mall today :)

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and get back to your guests :)


Review: Nikon D750 and Nikon 20mm Wide Angle Lens

D750

I must admit that when I first saw the specs for the Nikon D750 I wasn’t really too excited. It fits between the Nikon D610 and D810 both spec wise and price wise. However, I decided to go ahead and take it for a spin if for no other reason than to give my opinion about it to my readers. What I didn’t expect to happen was that I would fall in love with shooting with it.

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The Nikon D750 functions pretty much just like my Nikon D600. A few of the controls have been moved around, but certainly nothing you couldn’t get used to very quickly. There is definitely a difference in dynamic range or at least to my eye the D750 does a better job as it should.

 

Thrilled with the built-in WiFi

D750-wifi-menu

I’ve been complaining for years that DSLRs should have both WiFi and GPS built-in. You can find these features on lower end cameras all day long, but why not the higher end models? My Nikon reps tell me it’s because the alloys used in the pro bodies and I say BS. There has to be a way to have WiFi/GPS AND a metal/weather secure body. It’s not rocket science (we communicate millions of miles with a probe on an asteroid). The D750 answers one of my two wishes. It has built-in WiFi. No need for a small external module. It’s in the camera! Finally! This means that I have a native workflow that I can use to shoot RAW to the 1st card slot and basic JPG to the 2nd card slot. Those small JPGs can be sent to my iPhone or iPad FASTER as I shoot them for review.

D750-shuttersnitch

While this feature works just fine with Nikon’s App, I much prefer ShutterSnitch for iPad and iPhone when I just want to shoot wirelessly to my mobile devices.

Get ShutterSnitch here from the .

Get the Nikon WiFi app here from the .

 

The camera does a great job with skin tones

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I shoot a wide range of skin tones in my portrait sessions and I’ve always been happy with the results from my Nikon DSLRs. The D750 continues this tradition giving me great results. The EXPEED 4 sensor is a nice improvement over the EXPEED 3 found in my D600.

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The colors thus far have been spot on with the D750.

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The Nikon 20mm f/1.8 Wide Angle Lens

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ATL-Hartsfield

I’m sorry that I don’t have a better subject to show off this lens than the airport at night, but the weather here has been kind of sucky for the past few days. Nonetheless, this is a great lens. I already have the Nikon 14-24mm lens, but this one covers the sweet spot for a lot less money. If I didn’t already have a great wide angle lens, I’d get this one in a heart beat!

It’s a fast f/1.8 lens with no distortion that I can see. No fisheye effect, just great wide angle results and great low light performance.

 

The Bottom Line

d750-back

This camera is a solid upgrade for those looking to step into a 24.3MP full-frame DSLR or those looking for something a little better than the D610. It lists for $1,000 less than the D810. It also has improved video specs now doing 1080p video at 60fps (yes 4K would have been even better, but I’ll take the faster 1080p video for now. My only complaint with this model is that for some reason it seems slow when going into the menu. Normally on all my other Nikon DSLRs the menu comes up the moment you press the button, but for some reason the D750 hesitates for a couple of seconds. I’ve debated going to the Nikon D810 and moving up from my D600, but I think I’ll be taking this intermediate step instead. While I love the more “pro” feel of the D810 and the higher dynamic range, I’m still not thrilled with the 36MP RAW files (or smaller sRAW) file sizes that it produces. For my workflow and the way I shoot the D750 is (as much as I hate to admit it) simply a better fit. Of course that doesn’t mean that I ultimately won’t end up with both bodies :-)

Get the Nikon D750 Body here.

Get the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens here.

 





6 Last Minute Gift Ideas for the Photographer On Your List

giftguide

I haven’t met a photographer yet that has everything they want. It’s getting down to the wire, but there’s still time. If you have a photographer on your holiday gift list, I’ve hand picked 5 gifts that he or she will love. Best of all they are all under $500 (some below $200). So in no particular order let’s get to it:

 

CamRanger

camranger

CamRanger is a wireless/WiFi control system for the most popular Nikon and Canon DSLRs out there. Once your photographer has CamRanger setup they can wirelessly control their camera from a mobile device such as an iPad as well as see the images their taking as they take them wirelessly on the same mobile device.

Get it here.

 

Westcott 6-in-1 42″ Illuminator Set

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This is definitely my favorite reflector and diffuser kit and I take it on all my portrait location shoots.

You can get it here.

 

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan Card

CreativeCloudPhotographyPlan

If you have a photographer on your list then they will certainly appreciate always having the latest versions of Photoshop CC and Lightroom. Even if they are already Creative Cloud Photography Plan members, this card will give them another full year of membership.

You can get it here.

 

Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book Box Set

ScottKelbyDigital PhotographyBook

Get the photographer on your list a wealth of knowledge from the world’s best selling photography book author, Scott Kelby.

You get all 5 books for one low price here. Also don’t forget to check out his NEW Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers here.

 

Wacom Intuos Pro Medium Tablet

wacom_intuos_pro

I can’t imagine retouching a photo without a Wacom tablet. I just would rather wait until I got home or back to the office. This is why there’s one on my desk and one in my bag.

You can get the medium version here.

 

Westcott Rapid Box Octa 26″

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This is hands down my favorite on location softbox for speedlights. Quick and easy to setup and a great quality of light output.

You can get it here.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the items in my 2014 gift guide

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here.





Towel Hub: A USB Charging Station for your Kitchen

towel_hub

Here’s a clever idea for a gadget that looks cool and serves multiple purposes. The Towel Hub is a standard paper towel dispenser. However, at the base you’ll find 4 USB ports to charge your devices. The kitchen seems to be the hub in many homes and now you have a cool way to charge your mobile devices while you hang out at the bar, kitchen table or breakfast nook. You probably have already guessed how this product works. just plug in the AC adapter to a wall outlet, put your roll of paper towel on it and you’re done. You can now plug in up to 4 mobile devices and they will charge. There’s enough juice to charge your smartphone and your tablet. If this was all it did I would be happy. However, there’s more. The decorative top also servers as a topper for your wine bottles. If you want to take things up a notch you can opt for the model that also has a built-in bluetooth speaker for music playback.

I’m really happy with this addition to my kitchen and it would also make a great gift for the holidays.

You can get the standard model here.

You can get the model that includes a built-in bluetooth speaker here.

You can also get SHORT Lightning cables here.


The Moleskine Smart “Creative Cloud Connected” Notebook

moleskin-smart-notebook-creative-cloud

As much as I love technology, for many artists nothing beats good ole pen/pencil and paper. Sure we can now sketch right on our iPads or draw with a Wacom tablet right on our computers. However, if you just love the feel of paper then you’ll really like the NEW Moleskine Smart Notebook, which is now Creative Cloud connected. The idea is simple, draw with whatever tools you like to draw with in your notebook. Once you have your analog masterpiece on the page, fire up the companion app on your smartphone and capture your drawing. Once you capture it the app will automatically detect the alignment points on the page and align as well as fix the perspective of your drawing in the app. Next you can process the image and convert it to vectors. Lastly with one tap you can upload both the original capture as a JPG and the vector conversion as .SVG which you can open in Adobe Illustrator and edit the vectors.

Rather than continue to describe it, here’s a video from start to finish:

 

You can get the Moleskine Smart Notebook here.

You can get the companion App here:

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Limited Time: Get $300 Off the Nikon D810 and $100 Off the D610

nikon_d810

For a limited time and the first time you can get $300 off the Nikon D810 here. Also the Nikon D610 drops another $100 (a steal) here. These price drops only last until December 13, 2014.

 





Delta Studio: Good Idea. Really Bad Implementation.

DeltaStudio_iPad

P.S. don’t tease me with screenshots of movies that aren’t actually available on my flight…

As a frequent flier (Diamond Medallion – Million Miler) on Delta I’ve always applauded them for their firsts in making air travel a tad bit more enjoyable. It’s tough to please fliers these days because airlines tend to care more about profits these days than making the flying experience more enjoyable for its customers. However, Delta tends to come out on top when it comes to overall customer satisfaction and that’s largely in part due to the fact that they invest in their planes and try to offer a bit more than the others. Delta for example has more domestic planes equipped with WiFi than any other carrier. So much so that when I’m sometimes forced to fly other carriers I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. One of their latest perks recently introduced is Delta Studio. The idea is simple. Using your mobile device, say an iPad you can launch the Delta App and choose various video entertainment to stream over the plane’s WiFi. This content would play from the plane’s on board systems rather than streaming over the relatively slow Gogo Inflight internet. Sounds simple right? It should be, but Delta (and Gogo) chose a really bazar way to make this work. I’ve tried it twice now and have yet to be able to watch anything!

Here’s how it works currently…

You might think that you fire up the Delta App, choose a movie or tv show and watch it right? Nope. It’s not that simple. If you do fire up the Delta App first it will simply tell you that you don’t have anything in your library. Well OK, that kinda makes sense a little.

YouHaveNoVideos_DeltaStudio

Fine, let’s add something to “My Library”. Here’s where it starts to get strange. The Delta App tells you that you must leave the app and launch Safari to add content to your Library via the GoGo website. This one really boggles my mind. First off, Apple for years has allowed developers to build a browser (Safari) into their apps. So if the Delta App needed to go to a browser it could simply just bring up a window right in the App. No need to leave.

Nonetheless I launched Safari and navigated to the GoGo website. I signed into my account. I went to the entertainment tab and I found a movie that I wanted to watch and it was free. Awesome! I added it to my library and then tapped to watch it now. The website asked me to pick an app to watch it with and of course I picked the Delta app. It took me right back to the Delta App only to tell me that the movie was unavailable. WTF?

Neighbors6dollars

Sure, there could have been a problem with that selection. No problem, I went back to Safari and this time (silly me), I picked a movie that I had to rent. The cost was $6. I paid it and once again I tapped to watch it in the Delta app and I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that this movie was also unavailable and no there was no apparent way to get a refund.

videonotfound

I was at a loss for words since the Gogo site knows which plane you’re on when you’re logged in and therefore should know what’s available and what’s NOT. Alas, I went back to work on my iPad and needless to say I wasn’t entertained. You actually allowed me to choose a movie, pay for it, only to tell me after the fact that it’s not available.

Delta_Diamond_Medallion

Delta and Gogo, if you’re reading this, you’re current implementation is screwed up at best. It appears that Gogo is collecting the money for the content and that’s fine, but there is absolutely no reason that this transaction shouldn’t be transparent to the user and the entire process should happen within the Delta App. I’ve been on two flights thus far and have yet to see any of this wonderful content. The first time was on a flight without the entertainment system and therefore there were no videos available but at least it told me that up front instead of wasting my time having me browse selections that I would never be able to actually view.

BTW: Will I ever get my $6 back?

UPDATE: Gogo reached out to me on twitter to tell me that they found my purchase and refunded it. Thanks!

The way it should be

I can’t help but think about the iTunes model. If I buy/rent a movie on iTunes then it’s available to me on all of my devices at any time when I have a connection. I have the ability to download the video to my device or simply stream it. If we apply this to the Delta/Gogo model then I would envision something similar. I’m a Delta customer with a “my library”. I would be able to browse content and make choices up to 24 hours before my flight for streaming. Once I make my choices those files are download to the plane that I’m going to be on (with the 24 hour window before my flight). I fire up my device in the air and the content is streamed locally from the plane’s servers. If someone else rents/buys the same content/movie then great. You only have to download it to the plane once and stream it to both of us saving you money. Until it’s this seamless I think I’ll stick to my TiVo and iTunes content downloading to my devices the night before the flight as usual.

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Making my own 1TB SSD Portable Drive

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I was surprised to see how much the price of SSD’s (solid state drives) have dropped in price. I decided it was time to replace my slower portable drives with faster SSD ones. One thing I also learned a while ago is that many times it’s cheaper to buy the drive and buy external case to put it in, rather than buying a drive already assembled. I already a couple of generic USB 3.0 external cases that I picked up on sale at Micro Center. So I ordered this Crucial 1TB SSD drive.

Can the external hard drive case make a difference?

inateck-enclsoure

I put the SSD in my existing generic USB 3.0 external case. I formatted the drive and and copied the data to it from my existing external drive. All was well. Then I saw an ad for another enclosure by Inateck that claimed to be “Optimized for SSD”. I have seen firmware make a difference in the past with external drive enclosures, so I figured it’s possible that this enclosure could be faster. Since the price was only a few dollars more than generic USB 3.0 enclosures (under $20), I decided to try it and compare. The first thing I noticed that I really liked was the fact that you can install the drive without any tools. The cover comes off/unlocks by sliding it forward. Just plug your drive in and slide the cover back on. Then I saw the thing that I don’t like about this enclosure. I went to plug in my existing USB 3.0 cable that I’ve used on every USB 3.0 drive I’ve ever used only to see that for whatever reason they put a USB 3.0 A connector on the drive (the same one that’s on your computer). Granted they also give you the A to A cable, but it means that I would only be able to use that cable (or one like it) every time I use this drive. I’m still scratching my head over that one.

Next I decided to try a speed test. I had already tested the drive in the old case before taking it out and here are the results.

generic-USB3-enclosure

Then I plugged in the new enclosure with the same drive and and ran the same test and here are the results.

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The Bottom Line

Going SSD is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for speed and better reliability over spinning platter drives. While the Inateck enclosure is slightly faster, I’m not sure that it’s worth it because of the weird cable needed to connect the drive.

You can get the Crucial 1TB 6Gbs SSD here.

You can get the Inateck SSD Optimized enclosure here.

You can get a standard/generic USB 3.0 enclosure here.

 



Best iPad Mount for your Desk – Arkon makes it float!

iPad-desk-mount-Arkon

At my desk I work with three displays and usually my iPad Air 2 is within arm’s length. The problem is that when I want to use it I have to either turn away from my main display or pick it up and put it on my lap as there is little available desk space left in front of me. What if my iPad could just “float” in midair almost at eye level and always be there when I need it? That’s what the Arkon solutions provide me. Arkon makes a variety of mounts for your smartphones, tablets and cameras. Many pieces within their product line work together to allow you to build the right system for you.

iPad-desk-mount-Arkon-side

This holder comes with different “feet” to allow you to configure it for any full size iPad or Galaxy Tab. It comes with a  Heavy Duty Gooseneck arm.

Arkon_iPad_desk_mount

This thing feels as if it can hold up a car. Once you put it in the position you want, don’t worry it won’t move! Now keep in mind that this gooseneck can be used for more than just holding your tablet. If you add their low cost Camera Head Adapter kit it will hold your camera too. Yes even your heavy DSLR!

Get the Arkon Heavy Duty Table/Desk/Wheelchair Mount here.

arkon-camera-holder

Get the Camera Head Adapter Kit here.

 

CORRECTION: I was told by Arkon that the camera mount I listed above is too small for this gooseneck. So if you want to use this for a camera then you should order this model instead.

 

The Bottom Line

Arkon makes mounts to mount just about anything on anything. However, this is definitely one of my favorite solutions for mounting stuff in my office or home. If you’re looking for the best iPad mount, this is it!

 



5 Hot Deals for Cyber Monday 2014

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I can remember a time when Black Friday was the Friday after Thanksgiving and Small Business Saturday was the following day which led to Cyber Monday the Monday following Thanksgiving. Black Friday was for those that wanted to get up early, stand in lines and clamor for deals with brick and mortar stores. Cyber Monday was reserved for the online deals. Now it’s 2014 and that’s simply no longer the case. Sure there are still lines on Black Friday for local deals, but stores are competition more and more each year our attention. Each year they tried outdo each other by opening earlier and earlier until finally Friday at 12:01 AM was no longer good enough. Thanksgiving evening became fair game and that finally became Thanksgiving afternoon. As sad as that sounds especially for those workers wishing to spend time with their families and friends on Thanksgiving, Black Friday online (you know that Cyber Monday thing) suddenly became “Black November”. Some online retailers have been running deals all week while others have been running deals all month. With that said, Black Friday probably still sees the deepest discounts. So what’s left for Cyber Monday? Not much, but in some cases the big names have different items on sale today. Here are a few to check out:

 

#1

Amazon’s Cyber Monday Deals

Check them out here.

 

#2

B&H Photo and Video’s Deals

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Check them out here.

 

#3

Adobe Creative Cloud Still on Sale

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You can get a Full Creative Cloud Membership for only $39.99/month down from the usual $49.99/month. If you’re a student or teacher it gets even better. You can get your first year of the Full Adobe Creative Cloud for only $15.99/month (down from $19.99). Get the deals here.

 

#4

Kelby One Deal

Kelby Cyber 2014

Yep, it’s still going on and it’s a good one. See it here.

 

#5

Nikon D5200 Kit

NikonD5200Kit

Save $400 on this Nikon D5200 kit. Great DSLR for beginners. Now at a price that’s hard to pass up. Includes TWO lenses, 16GB SD Card, Wireless Module, Nikon School DVD and Travel Case. Get it here.

 

Also don’t forget to check out my 2014 Holiday Gadget Gift Guide

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See it here.

 



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